The U.S. Open at Chambers Bay this summer will overlap with a special edition of the annual Meeker Days Festival in Puyallup, prompting the city to plan for hundreds of thousands of visitors the third weekend in June.
Puyallup is celebrating its 125th anniversary as a city during the June 19-21 event, named after city founder Ezra Meeker.
That’s the same weekend the United States Golf Association will hold the final rounds of its long-awaited championship in University Place with an estimated 235,000 people in tow.
The Washington State Fairgrounds is one of many locations providing exclusive parking and shuttle service for the golf tournament, and many spectators have booked hotels in the greater Puyallup area.
Adding those crowds to the estimated 150,000 Meeker Days attendees will create logistical challenges, festival manager Benjii Bittle said.
“It is going to create a few more challenges, but it’s so exciting,” he said Friday. “It’s a sign that the community is maturing that we can have several major events happening at the same time and pull them off.”
Planning for this year’s festival started in October, several months earlier than usual, Bittle said. And conversations about the overlapping events started well before Meeker Days last year.
Some plans are up in the air until road closures and transportation plans are finalized, but Bittle said traffic control and parking will be challenging. Out-of-town vendors and entertainers also face more competition to secure hotel rooms nearby.
But with increased crowds comes more exposure. Bittle hopes U.S. Open visitors will check out Meeker Days’ free entertainment and activities or enjoy the beer garden between trips to Chambers Bay.
He said some members of the media are staying in hotels nearby and could use the festival as an opportunity to film establishing shots of Puyallup for their broadcasts.
“It’s a good way for us to show off a good authentic community festival to the world,” Bittle said.
Shelly Schlumpf, president and CEO of the Puyallup-Sumner Chamber of Commerce, said there will be an information booth set up near fair parking for whole week of the U.S. Open. She said it will guide spectators to “a burger, a beer and a bed,” as well as the festival, when they get off the shuttles.
Puyallup police will pull double duty to cover security needs in both cities. Spokesman Scott Engle said staffing won’t be an issue despite the additional workload.
Puyallup officers will patrol the Puyallup parking lots and help with the overall security plan at Chambers Bay. The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department has yet to finalize its U.S. Open security plans, but Engle said Puyallup will have a presence at the golf course.
Washington State Patrol and Puyallup Police Department’s traffic unit will coordinate road closures and traffic flow in and around the city, he added.
Puyallup Police Chief Bryan Jeter said the increased number of visitors “definitely causes us to take a closer look at our plan,” but he said the overlap of events isn’t a major concern.
He noted that Puyallup police coordinate security, parking and traffic control for the Washington State Fair, which attracts more than a million visitors to the city in September each year.
“Our officers are very skilled in these types of events,” Jeter said.
The county will reimburse the city for overtime costs related to U.S. Open staffing, he added, so Puyallup’s budget wasn’t affected.
Schlumpf said she hopes the event overlap will allow visitors to celebrate a Puyallup pioneer while also boosting the local economy.
“I look at it as a positive, we just need to prepare,” she said. “We’re well on the way to doing that.”